James 3:1-18   Making your words Count


What do Michael Jordan / Gene Simmons and Jenna Bush all have in common

A) Greatest ever to Play NBA – rock Star – Presidents Daughter


B) They all have been photographed with their tongues sticking out


C) The Tongue is an interesting part of the Human body

1) Did you know that your tongue is # 1 muscle in your body that receives the most exercise & less control than any other? 


D) Kind of an ugly thing -especially disconnected! Ever seen a cow’s tongue.



But the tongue is also a  very helpful organ: tasting, chewing, swallowing, closing the opening of our trachea, & it helps in making sounds…& that’s where it gets us into trouble!
A) James has been talking about how works define our faith and what we say and how we say it is a part of that.


Aa) No where is the union of faith and works more visible than in your speech.



B) Remember the old days when you went to the doctor and the nurse would put the thermometer under your tongue to take your Physical temperature?

1) Well, James says, your tongue can also tell  your spiritual temperature.


C) The First thing that James wants us to know is that if your tongue is in order your life will be in order! James 3:1-2


My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.


Do you realize that you speak about 18 to 25 thousand words a day?

A) Some people have said that men speak 25 thousand words a day and women speak 30 thousand words a day,


B) I don't know who counted that up, but the difficulty is by the time the man comes home from work, he has already spent his 25 thousand and the woman hasn't started on her 30 thousand.

1) She's been waiting for that opportunity.


C) But we speak a tremendous number of words a day. Somebody calculated that we probably put together a 54-page book every day. And in a year, we would probably produce about 21,610pages


D) This may shock you. You will, if you're a normal person, spend one fifth of your life talking. 

1) James wants us to make our words count That is the issue that James addresses here in Ch.3 – The tongue –


Now the Bible declares that we will all give an account for the words we speak!


Matthew 12:34-37

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.   A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.   But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.   For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."


The truth we learn here is this: When we talk, God pays attention – He takes inventory of our words

A)We are all going to have to answer for our words.


B)Translate v.1 this way: I’d give teaching another thought

1)Good thing – Paul said – desire – James adds it is also a serious thing.


C)It is a serious thing to handle God’s word – Holy thing!



1 Peter 4:11

 “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” 


Oracles – God’s mouth piece –


God Judges our motive – some people want to teach because they like to hear themselves talk –

A) Peter says remember the motive is to glorify God


B) Judged by clarity: How well we handled the text

1) Accurate in communicating God’s heart


C) Also Conduct – Need to live what you preach

1) Serious business


Ecclesiastes 5:1-2

“Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.   2 Do not be rash with your mouth,

And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.   For God is in heaven, and you on earth;

Therefore let your words be few.”


D) So we are all going to give an account for our words but teaching is extra strict Judgment


E) Tongue is in order – your life will be in order!

To help us understand that, James gives us two illustrations. Verse 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.

A) My wife Denise loves to ride horses – Growing up in Oregon –


B) Horseback riding is an interesting thing – You have this 1200lb animal – set a 100lb woman on it’s back – 1)and she can control that horse – how is that possible?


C)You control a horse by controlling his tongue. You put a piece of metal in a horse's mouth.

1) It lays on his tongue. – A Bit


D) Without that a horse will not do what you need it to do.


 Did you ever know a horse to volunteer to plow a field? Just show up one day..."Like to plow your field, sir." Did you ever know a horse to volunteer to pull a wagon? How about a horse volunteer to carry a rider?


You have to break them, don't you? And you break them with a bit in the mouth and you control the whole body by controlling the tongue.


That's what James is saying. You get control of your tongue and you can direct your whole body.

A) Everything else comes into line.


Another illustration he gives in verse 4 “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”

A)That's another very graphic illustration. A huge cruise ship – 70,000 ton vessel – a city on water


B) IS  controlled by a little rudder – captain steers the ship – simply amazing – that huge vessel being steered by such a small object –


C) The tongue is a small thing – but under the right influence it is powerful.


And he sums it up in verse 5. "Even so, the tongue is a little member but boasts great things."

A)Stop there. What does he mean? it boasts great things.


B) It is capable of great things. It's potent. Great potential for Good – list

1) It can build up. It can express love, enthusiasm, encouragement, comfort, peace, joy.


C) It can proclaim God’s word – preach the goodnews – direct a nation – Famous speeches

1) The tongue is a powerful thing.


D) Power to do a lot of Good – But it also has the power to bring much destruction!


But it is also destructive 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

A) The tongue is like fire- Fire place is great – warm you  But in a forest – much destruction


B) We are well aware. Recent So. Cal

 At least 1,500 homes were destroyed and over 500,000 acres of land burned from Santa Barbara County to the U.S.–Mexico border.


Nine people died as a direct result of the fire;85 others were injured, including at least 61 fire fighters.


C)Tongue is like a fire – little member it can do a lot of damage.

1)It can tear down people. It can tear down churches. It can destroy relationships.


D)It can wreck a marriage. It can devastate a family. It can rip up a nation.

1)It can lead to murder. It can lead to war.


In Proverbs 16:27 it says "An ungodly man digs up evil and in his lips there is a burning fire."


Proverbs 26:20 says, "Where no wood is, there the fire goes out. So where there is no tale bearer, the strife ceases."

A) And the picture here is that the tale-bearer or the one who passes on the evil report of the slander or the gossip or the lie is like the wood that fuels the fire.


B) The same Proverbs 26:21

 "But as coals are to burning coals and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife."


C) The word "kindle" means to burn up.

1)The picture again of gossip and slander and contention being a fire that devastates.


Morgan Blake, a sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal, wrote I think an interesting statement. He said,


"I am more deadly than the screaming shell from the Howitzer. I win without killing. I tear down homes, break hearts and wreck lives. I travel on the wings of the wind. No innocence is strong enough to intimidate me. No purity pure enough to daunt me. I have no regard for truth, no respect for justice, no mercy for the defenseless. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea and often as innocent. I never forget and seldom forgive and my name is gossip."


The Church loves to disquise it in spiritual garb

Don’t tell anyone what I am about to tell you I promised the person who told me I wouldn’t tell but I am telling you so you can pray


That type of dialogue – sick – inflates our ego – I have the goods – I know something –

A) Sad when a person gets their sense of self worth – from knowing something bad about someone else – Sick


B) How those tabloids stay in business – there is something so wicked in the heart of man that longs to know and to share that sort of garbage


C)And we in the Church are not immune – We just dress it up in spiritual terms – we really need to pray- give me a break – so often that is just Christian Tabloidism


D) Now we have bloggs – share our opinions about someone under an alias – Wicked – wrong


Look at James’ description again in V.6 - heavy

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.


I believe, is the strongest statement ever made on the danger of the mouth..  4 parts

A) Number one, it is a world of iniquity.


B) Now that's a strange title for a tongue...a world ….

1) not in the sense of the physical earth but a system of evil.



C) And what he is saying is the tongue is an iniquitous system.

1) It is an unrighteous hostile rebelling order within our humanness.


D) It is a whole potential evil that falls short of God's standard.

1) It is the focal point of behavioral unrighteousness within man.


E) Like a fire it inflames all of our capacities in its effort to bring the whole person into its wicked system.


One commentator said it is the microcosm of evil among our members.. No other bodily part has such far-reaching potential for disaster as the tongue.


So, first of all, in itself and by itself, it is a system of iniquity. It is a network that breeds evil.


Notice how this begins to expand now.

A )Secondly, the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body.


B) It in itself is a system of evil and then it defiles the whole body.

1) It's like smoke from a fire, stains everything that doesn't burn


C) So, first of all, in your mouth you have a system of iniquity. Secondly, it will stain and burn your whole person.

And look at thirdly, this is really incredible, it expands again. "And it sets on fire the whole course of nature," 

A) A better translation Authorized, "It is setting--present tense--on fire the circle of life."


B) The thought is expanding. First is the system of wickedness.

1) Second, it stains the whole person.


C) Now it sets ablaze, and the Greek is, "the wheel of birth" or "the circle of life." What does that mean?


The whole machinery of your life. It not only stains you, but it touches everything you touch.

A) It effects the whole machinery of your life.


B) It goes beyond the body to touch every participant in the circle of your life.


C) And then he speaks of a fourth factor, this is the most devastating statement on the danger of the tongue.


D) He says finally at the end of verse 6, "It is set on fire by hell." Present tense, it is habitually being lit--as it were--by hell.

Originates from the heart of Satan himself


E) Isn’t that heavy – Our tongues can be an instrument used of God bring life and revelation

1) Peter – You are the Christ – Flesh and blood ….

F) The same time our tongues can be used by Satan himself to bring death and discouragement

1) Peter again: Lord, don’t talk like that – Get behind me Satan


Now in V.7 -8 James presents a paradox

7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.


At first glance it would seem that James has been setting us up for a fall – telling us that the person who can control the tongue can control the whole body


Sign of Spiritual maturity –


Then he throws down the gauntlet

A) We can tame animals – think whales horses – dogs cats – elephants – lions tigers – dolphins /you name it


B) But no man can tame the tongue! – What? James why didn’t you say that in the first place – wasting – 8 verses to bring us to this disappointing conclusion


C) What James is wanting us to catch is sort of a double metaphor – on the one hand saying – look what man can do – tame all these animals


On the other hand – He wants us to see that when it comes to the taming of the tongue – this is not MAN THING BUT A GOD THING!

A) No man, emphasis man, can tame the tongue – but God can – that is James’ point.


B) In the same way that a horse needs a rider and a ship needs a captain –

1) Your tongue needs a captain -


C) It is an appeal for surrender -  More surrendered the more control

1) Want to make your words count – give your tongue to God


Some horses have a “soft mouth”, others have “one that doesn’t give very well to the bit”. (some turn with your pinky, others take a good tug)


Q: Would you consider your mouth to be a soft mouth (easily controlled by its rider) or one that “doesn’t give to the bit”?


Q: Has your mouth been a little sore from your master pulling.


Go back to the words of Jesus – Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks

A) The issue is the heart – the source – what is feeding controlling – your heart


B) That is where it starts – it all stems from the source – { James points out in the following vs

9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.  


Here is the point: A tree is made to bring forth one kind of fruit – plant fig tree = figs

A) Grapevine grapes – Olive tree – Olives


B) So too a spring is meant to produce one kind of water – fresh


C)The product is going to be connected to the source


That is the thing that James really wants us to catch

Who is our source? Jesus

A) More connected to Him – more our  speech is going to be that which builds up, brings life


B) Rather than that which tears down and brings death.


C) What is coming out is a direct result of what is being put into the heart.


D)James builds on this idea in the vs that follow.


James 3:13-18


Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom./

 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.


17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.


If the Source is from Hell – From Satan – Demonic

Result: Bitter envy: Bitter – I am bothered

Envy: I want








Every evil thing

But if the source is from above:








Willing to yield


Not Partial


Without Hypocrisy